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Brad Laabs: Change your strategies to stay on the fish

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outdoors Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

With the hot weather and bright sunshine of the last few weeks, water temperatures have returned to seasonal averages of mid-70 degrees. With the warming trend, the lakes have been active with hatches of both bugs and young of the year fish of several species. This means that nature has put a lot of food on the table for the game fish we are chasing. It is time to change a few strategies to stay on your fish.

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This starts to be the time of the season for walleye chasers that high action baits and faster presentations can produce. A couple of the most popular warm weather walleye techniques is pulling spinners or crank baits. Most spinners will be pulled behind bottom bouncers or another weight system that will get the spinner near the bottom. Spinners are most successful when pulled from about .8 to 1.5 mph. The slower you go, the bigger the blade should be and the faster speeds do better with the smaller blades. Popular colors for our area include hammered gold, hammered silver, chartreuse, green, or some of the perch holographic blades out there. Use a weight that matches your depth and speed. You can do this by using enough weight (at say 1.2 mph) that your line will not get beyond a 45 degree angle. Less than 45 degrees is better. Many types of weight systems are available and can be individualized. Fixed bouncers, sliding bouncers, quick change, and snap on are all available. You may need to play with all of them to find your favorite. You can buy pre-tied spinners, but I recommend tying your own and putting quick change clevises on them so you can change blade colors. Night crawlers, minnow, leeches, and even the plastic imitators can all be used on the spinner rigs. Crank baits can be pulled in shallow or deep water and baits are designed for all depths. Baits that are designed for shallow water presentations can also be used in deep water with multiple weighting systems. Lead line, snap weights, bottom bouncers, jet divers, dipsy divers, and snap weights make up most of these options. If you are new at the crank bait game, I suggest you keep it simple. Spool a “hardline” like fireline or power prow onto a line counter reel. Buy baits that dive to the depths you want to fish and get out and practice. A book like “Precision Trolling” will give you all the information you need to open up this world of fishing.   

For crappie lovers, two patterns start to emerge during this warm water period. One pattern is crappies suspended over deeper water. Deep drops off long extending points or flats that extend into main lake areas will hold some of these suspended fish. You can recognize them by the pine tree type shape of the school. Fishing jigs or slip bobber rigs just above these fish can produce during the mid-summer. I personally don’t do as well trying to chase down these schools of fish. If you do find them, they seem to be creatures of habit and the pattern and location will repeat year after year. If chasing mid-summer crappies, I like to search the weed line edge fish by rip jigging twister tails. Other anglers have had success for years with beetle spins and other similar high action baits trolled along weed line. When you find one, you usually find several by repeated passes in the area. When they quit, go back on the search method until you locate some more active fish. One thing you can be sure of when using this probing method, you will catch a number of different varieties of fish.

Bass anglers will be pitching aggressive baits like spinners and crank baits to shady cover areas in shallow water in the mornings and evenings. During the heat of the day, moving to weed lines with jigs and plastics or Texas rigging worms will produce. For the smallmouth lakes in the area, rock piles supply food and cover. Pitching tube jigs, bucktails jigs, and crank baits can pry some fish out of their comfortable living and provide wild action. Bass are plentiful in our area lakes are probably under fished because of the walleye and musky available locally.

Northern pike are aggressive and feeding during these dog days of summer. Bigger baits will produce. Many fish relate to weeds, but some of the bigger fish will use the cooler deeper water. Casting and trolling are popular options for catching actively feeding northern. Spinners and bigger minnow imitating crank baits are favorite baits this time of year for the northern pike anglers. I also enjoy catching them on live bait rigs. I use large sucker minnows. I change leaders over to a superline to reduce the risk of bite offs.

Musky chasers will stay hard to casting large, high action baits over shallow weeds to catch actively feeding fish. Some will also troll crank baits for summertime fish. Large baits trolled from 2.5-5mph can trick a fish of a lifetime. Musky up to 55 inches have already been caught this year on both Big Detroit and Pelican lakes. It seems the average size gets bigger every year and fish over 40 inches are common on all our area musky lakes.

Our area is known for great pan fishing. Almost all the area lakes seem to have big sunfish willing to bite. Jigs under bobbers, or aggressive jigging by twitching the jig suspended in the weeds will trigger fish. Pieces of night crawler, small leeches, crappie minnows, or small plastics all seem to be producing.

Because the weather and the water get warm doesn’t mean it’s time to stop fishing. Get out and enjoy all that our lakes have to offer.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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